End of the line

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Angry farmers protest at the Tier 3 closure at Bruce Rock.
Camera IconAngry farmers protest at the Tier 3 closure at Bruce Rock. Credit: The West Australian

Angry Wheatbelt farmers have put the State Government on notice, warning a mass grain truck rally protest against next month's grain freight network closures is imminent.

Despite years of protests by the Wheatbelt community, 509km of Tier 3 rail will close on July 1.

The Economic Regulation Authority is expected to release a floor and ceiling price for CBH to access Tier 1 and Tier 2 lines in just days, but there is no prospect of it including the Wheatbelt's Tier 3 lines.

Wheatbelt Rail Retention Alliance chairman Greg Richards says farmers feel as though "they've got nothing left to lose," as they plan to converge on Perth with a convoy of trucks to coincide with the closures in a desperate move to rally support from the local community.

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Mr Richards said the alliance and its supporters would travel from the Wheatbelt to Perth to show how many trucks it would take to replace just one train.

"We're angry," Mr Richards said.

"We've been patient and respectful as we've spoken to countless politicians and even had a group of Liberal backbenchers up here to look at the situation, but it seems like everything has fallen on deaf ears.

"We're now convinced that until there is some transparency of the lease agreement between Brookfield Rail and the State Government, we'll continue to be ignored and left in the dark."

Mr Richards said that with only days before the closure of Tier 3 lines, Wheatbelt farmers felt their time and options for diplomacy had nearly run out.

"While we sit back and do nothing, Rome burns and our grain remains in the bins," he said.

"The State Government talks about 'seizing the opportunity' ... well, we're on the verge of squandering one of the largest opportunities in the Wheatbelt.

"We're shaping up to have another good crop this year, so how is all this grain going to get to port?"

Last year the State harvested its largest crop ever, producing more than 15 million tonnes.

"To be told the line is going to close on June 30 and not do anything about it doesn't sit right with us," Mr Richards said.

"We're producing a vital product, which is a vital part of the State's $7.5 billion agricultural earnings and we're putting it at risk by gambling with railway lines, the lifeline of the Wheatbelt economy. "

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Dean Nalder has announced a visit to the Wheatbelt in July to talk to farmers.

Mr Richards said the minister had a great opportunity to visit the Wheatbelt and talk with the farmers about their concerns.

"With Mr Nalder coming to see us, we will be telling him at the very least it would be decent of Colin Barnett and Brookfield to leave the lines open until the ERA decision and the rail inquiry have been completed," Mr Richards said.

Farmers rallied to Bruce Rock this week to show their support for the WRRA plan.

One of the farmers, Bryce Hayes-Thompson of Doodlakine, said the Barnett Government had sold out the interests of farmers to hide its own bad decisions.

"I never thought I'd see the day the rail closed down," he said.

Mr Hayes-Thompson said he had farmed in the area and used the rail to cart his grain for more than 40 years.

"The closure is going to bring disadvantage to farmers, the rural community and everyone else using the roads," he said.

"The roads in the Wheatbelt are deteriorating very fast and the quality of the repairs to the roads is very poor. So the roads are not going to last as long as the Government expects they will.

"Mr Barnett needs to understand that grain needs to go by rail to save the roads in the Wheatbelt."

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